The Los Angeles Kings are in familiar territory on Monday night as they prepare to battle the New York Rangers in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Up two games to none after two straight come-from-behind overtime victories, the Kings will be looking to put a stranglehold on this series and force the Rangers to the brink of elimination.
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Before they can do that, we have our Three Keys to Victory as the Kings continue their quest for a second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons.
Prepare for an Initial Push
In the first two games of this series, the Rangers have come out of the gate with a strong offensive effort, utilizing a mix of great speed among their forwards and some tremendous transitional play by defensemen like Ryan McDonagh. The Kings have been knocked on their heels a bit by this early onslaught, but they have obviously recovered nicely as they’ve picked up back-to-back victories.
As should be expected from a team down 0-2 in the series however, Monday night will likely prove to be more of the same from that perspective. In these playoffs, the Rangers have been positively dominant when they take the ice at Madison Square Garden for the first time, and even though their 1-2 record in those three home openers may not show it, the shot totals certainly do.
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In those three games, the Rangers have outshot their opponents by a margin of 108-55, and a lot of that hay has been made in the first period of games. The Kings have to be ready for that onslaught in the early going, and they have to somehow try to avoid the pitfall of going down early on the scoreboard once again.
Kings’ Penalty Kill Must Continue Rangers’ Power Play Woes
For all of the great puck movement and scoring chances that the Rangers have generated in the first two games of this series, their power play production numbers are still woefully low.
Over the course of their last six games, the Rangers are 2-for-24 on the man-advantage, and in this series specifically they are 1-for-8 against the Kings. Guys like Brad Richards are doing a nice job of moving the puck around the zone, and players like Marty St. Louis have been able to find some open space, but it’s been a combination of solid goaltending and great shot blocking that has enabled the Kings to largely keep the Rangers silent in this area.
That trend has to continue on Monday night if the Kings are going to grab a 3-0 lead in the series. Allowing an opponent to capitalize on your mistakes is the surest fire way to lose a game, and the Kings can’t fall into that trap in this one.
Dustin Brown Must Continue to Build on Game 2 Success
While a lot of the attention in the first two games of the series has been showered upon players like Justin Williams and Willie Mitchell (and rightfully so), Kings captain Dustin Brown has been doing a good job of upping his play at the right time.
His crowning moment (forgive the royally cheesy puns) came in the second overtime period of Game 2 when he redirected a Mitchell shot past Henrik Lundqvist and into the net to give his team a 2-0 lead in the series. The play encapsulated everything that Brown can bring to the team, as his quality passing led to a possession and his willingness to go to the front of the net to create screens and deflect shots resulted in a goal.
If the Kings are going to pick up a Game 3 victory, they will need more of that type of play from Brown. He is a player who always gets to the dirty areas, draws penalties, and delivers hits, and his example is one that the team will need to follow for success in this game.